Francesco Rota and Desalto’s new direction

We interviewed the designer, and art director at Desalto since 2022, discussing his vision for the brand’s future.

In 2022, Francesco Rota assumed the role of Desalto's art director, ushering the company into uncharted territories under his leadership. Our conversation with him began with a focus on the ongoing efforts to enrich the brand's authentic essence. "Desalto was established in the 1990s as an evolution of a family business rooted in metal craftsmanship. The name itself means 'high design,' reflecting the four Orsenigo brothers' desire to establish a venture capable of meeting contemporary challenges by collaborating with established and emerging designers," Rota explains to Domus.

"Upon joining Desalto, it felt natural to me to revive the company's intrinsic values, enhance its DNA, and focus on refining the specialized skills primarily related to metal," he elaborates. He then delves into the electroplating department, describing it as "quite complex dedicated facility,” and discusses the ongoing exploration of new processes. "We're also working on new finishes that could redefine the furniture sector," he adds. The fundamental concept is to go back to the origins, "to go back to talking about metal."

The Koki Wire outdoor seating family by Desalto

The first opportunity to unveil Desalto’s new direction to the public came during the Salone del Mobile 2023, where the booth symbolized the company's fresh start: "open, bright, minimal, and stripped of any unnecessary embellishments," Rota explains. "The backdrop was entirely white, providing an ideal canvas to showcase the strength of our products – tables and chairs – dyed blue specifically for the event." Thus, the initiative was dubbed the Blue Chapter. "The distinctive color was selected based on the blue highlights found in the iron sheets, made of expanded metal," he adds.

Italy is a country of remarkable diversity: every 50 kilometers, the dialect, cuisine, climate, and landscape change. The furniture world should respect this diversity.

The first object to represent the company's new chapter is the Heb table, designed by Rota himself. The product is a strong statement on the use of metal, which, thanks to new finishes and colors, will serve as the red (or rather, blue) thread connecting the company's diverse furnishings. "Rather than sets or families of products, the idea is to have different pieces that harmoniously coexist within the same space,” says the designer.

We also delve into a significant and delicate topic within Italian design: that of homogenization and the standardization of tastes. "Italy is a country of remarkable diversity: every 50 kilometers, the dialect, cuisine, climate, and landscape change. The furniture world should respect this diversity. I believe it's my responsibility as an art director to respect the company's identity, its origins, to rediscover what may have been lost along the journey, and to differentiate ourselves from other brands," Rota states. Desalto is focusing on finding new directions and defining a strong identity, for instance, by exploring the use of metals other than the usual steel, aluminum, iron, and brass. "We are committed to expanding research into alternative materials such as zinc and pewter," he reveals.

To explain his approach, Rota goes back to his formative years. "I studied at an American university, ArtCenter College of Design, where I learned how to be a consultant for companies before being a designer."  Analysis and dialogue are for him two fundamental components of the art director’s role, a neutral party who views the company from an external perspective and can offer an objective assessment."

One of the evocative images used for Desalto's new communication campaign

Naturally, the relaunch unfolds not only through the product but also through communication. The delicacy of flowers and the power of crashing waves against rocks, nature's blend of fragility and strength serves as the muse for Desalto's new campaign, captured by Robert Rieger. The spotlight is on the Clay table, designed by Marc Krusin, an iconic furniture piece and one of the company's top sellers. We inquired with Francesco Rota about the rationale behind the unconventional, if not radical, direction of this project. "We wanted to steer our communication campaign slightly away from the design world, offering a fresh perspective on the brand. Rather than showcasing a meticulously curated living room, we chose to focus on the raw materials, nature, and evocative values, sensations, and emotions," he explains. It's a language, he elaborates, that aligns more closely with the world of fashion than that of furniture. "In the upcoming years, our narrative will evolve, leading up to 2025 with a more descriptive general catalog that will also cater to the functional needs of our sales department," he announces. He concludes, "However, our current priority is to outline our path. The first steps are always the most challenging as we strive to rebuild a dialogue with our public."

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